After TV White Spaces, Now Citizens Broadband Radio Service

The Federal Communications Commission has voted to approve a historic spectrum sharing plan in the 3.55 to 3.7 GHz band, creating at new 150-MHz block of spectrum available for shared use by licensed government users as well as commercial entities expected to include mobile service providers, Internet app and service providers.

The plan is the second major initiative undertaken by the Commission to support shared access to spectrum by commercial and government users.

The TV White Spaces initiative was the first to use spectrum sensing techniques to avoid interference between licensed users and occupants of TV White Spaces bands.

But the new Citizens Broadband Radio Service is the first ever to use a single block of spectrum to support multiple classes of users.

That is important for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it speeds the process of commercializing more Internet and mobile spectrum, at vastly lower cost than the older method of clearing existing users and relocating them elsewhere.

In creating the new “Citizens Broadband Radio Service,” the FCC will enable a new three-tiered commercial radio service that expands the amount of spectrum available for commercial Internet and mobile purposes, while saving the time and expense of relocating existing licensed users.

Under the plan, expected to provide a model for sharing in other spectrum bands, the licensed users will be protected from interference, and have priority use of the frequencies.

But two new categories of users will be created. The “General Authorized Access” tier will allow any user with a certified device to operate without seeking any further Commission approval, will permit low-cost entry into the band, similar to unlicensed uses such as Wi-Fi.

For service and app providers with greater requirements for quality of service, a “Priority Access” tier will offer geographically targeted, short-term priority rights to a portion of the band, available through future spectrum auctions.

One ormore spectrum access systems, operated by private commercial entities, will facilitate coexistence among the different user tiers. That is expected to be modeled on the use of access databases developed to support TV White Spaces.
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